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Twelve Lessons in Leadership: Communicate With Clarity

By Dr Paul E Adams |

"Sixty percent of all management problems result from faulty communications."
Peter Drucker

To be a leader, your followers must know and understand where you are taking them and your expectations. Otherwise, confusion, chaos, and costly blunders can raise havoc with your business--big or small.

The need for simple and clear communications is a basic of business. Yet, with the daily blitz of demands, too many small business owners treat their ability to communicate with employees and customers as a small part of their package of management skills--even unimportant. Too bad mistakes, customer ill will, unhappy employees, and management blunders are hatched from; rash statements, failing to inform so every knows what you mean, failing to instruct with simple language, and failing to tell the truth to dodge a problem. Yes, poor communications can dent your bottom line.

I have seen a product mislabeled, packed in the wrong boxes, painted the wrong color, and shipped to the wrong customer because management assumed or just thought everyone knew what to do. Such assumptions are costly, and caused by laziness. I have seen angry employees because the owner hinted at a raise or promotion with no intention of following thru. I have seen unhappy customers over misunderstandings of price and delivery. I have seen employees at a lost because no one trained them to handle certain problems.

Extremes are as common in business as anywhere. From no written policies rules or instructions (so common with small business with less than 5 employees) to third person, dull, and boring written material more like lengthy congressional reports than what to do, how to do it, and what not to do.

Business schools need to improve. Perhaps a student may get one short course in business English. Why is business different from good old-fashioned proper English? Writing term papers peppered with foot notes while fine for research, but are not too effective in learning communication skills to motivate and lead the troops. Our business school grads could use a course or two in mastering the art of communicating with others to accomplish goals--not impress with dead jargon...

Here is my point: If you want your employees to do as you wish, if you want your customers to buy your product or service, tell them in a way all will understand without questions or assumptions. If people are not sure of what you mean--you are at fault. Not the reader or listener. To be successful you must communicate in the language of your audience in language they relate to and understand. The most successful communicators speak and write in plain simple language, language that all can understand. Clichés, jargon, and words to impress may make you feel good, but that is about all.

Here are a set of simple suggestions:

  1. Just because you barked a command last month or last year does not mean everyone will remember it. New employees will be in the dark.

  2. Don't be quick to say, "I told you before". How do you know your employees understood you or heard you?

  3. What makes you think saying something once is enough for your words to be in stone?

  4. If your instructions require more than 25 words, write them down, post them, and remind everyone. Don't assume all will read it or understand it.

  5. Don't think because you have a small business the written word applies only to large corporations.

  6. If you want the task done to your specifications, clear instructions in simple language are a must.

  7. Big words don't make you appear smarter. Such words confuse and waste employee's time trying to figure out what you are talking about.

We have verbal and written language skills so we can understand each other. If we get pompous, try to impress, use words we do not understand, try to wing it, or hide our ignorance with Park Ave. clichés, we are not leaders, but losers.

Canadian, Eh!

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